Providing Lesotho's Children with Keys to the World

This is the story of our efforts to end the vicious cycle of poverty, disease, inadequate education, and early death
in a remote rural community in Lesotho, Africa, by providing quality education and life skills
to the young children there. Join us on our journey ...

Sunday, February 24, 2013

2013 Trip Report #2: Lost Luggage and Stolen Equipment

Murphy's Law:  "Anything that can go wrong will go wrong."
Idiom: "The third time's the charm."

I guess I've just been lucky on my first two trips to Lesotho.  This time around, not so lucky. 

Everyone who flies to Maseru from outside of Lesotho has to go through the Johannesburg airport.  The airport, like the city, is famous for its rampant theft problems.  I'd never seen any evidence of it before this trip.

This time, I had a comparatively short layover in the Jo'burg airport, just 1½. hours to de-plane, get through passport control, go through the transit lounge and security, and get to the gate for my flight to Maseru, which is always at the far end of the terminal.

I made it with 5 minutes to spare, but apparently one of my pieces of luggage didn't.  When I got to Maseru, one checked bag was there, but the other was missing.  I had seen it being loaded in New York onto the JFK-to-Johannesburg flight, so I knew it made it that far. 

Sure enough, it arrived in Maseru on the very next flight, which was 24 hours later.  Unfortunately, during the bag's layover, it had been broken into and a small digital projector and VGA cable that works with the XO laptop had been stolen.  Interestingly enough, the XO laptops in the bag held no interest to the thieves and were left untouched.

We had planned to use the projector as an integral part of our training this year, so its loss came as a huge blow. 

The airline wouldn't pay to replace it because their baggage policy clearly states not to put valuables in your checked baggage and they won't be held liable if you do.  Not that it would have mattered because affordable projectors just aren't available in Lesotho.

I had had no alternative but to put the projector in my checked bag.  My carry-on's were full of two servers, routers, my personal laptop, and a Dell laptop belonging to the project.  The projector was an awkward shape, didn't fit well in my carry-on anyway, and so was the obvious choice to go into a checked bag. 

By the way, I've tried shipping things to Lesotho, and, not only can it take 3+ months to arrive, even when sent first class, only about half the packages make it to their destination.  They do, after all, have to go through the South African postal system.

Several weeks later, Sherrie and Jennifer also came through the Jo'burg airport and had someone break into their checked baggage during their 12-hour layover.  They lost some personal items.

We managed to conduct our training without the projector, though I lost track of the number of times someone said, "Oh, this would have been so much easier with the projector." 

One consolation I take heart from is that the projector has no external buttons, so it doesn't work unless you have the remote control for it.  The remote, which got packed in my other bag and is not readily available in South Africa, is now sitting on my desk as a bitter-sweet reminder.  I may have lost a projector, but the thief didn't gain one, at least not one s/he can use.

- Janissa

Up Next:  2013 Trip Report #3: Maseru